pro kontext k povídce viz můj článek z 24.1.
For long hours it had been transfixed in the same supportive position, until now, when my hand was finally allowed to release all stiffness and stretch its fingers. Still bearing marks of being firmly pressed by a hard book cover, the fingers made a defiant cracking sound to protest against the duration of my reading and their immobility; my body was opposing the timeless hours in which I had forgotten that I even have such things as fingers, or a body at all. Of which all parts except my rumbling stomach and occasionally rubbed eyes failed to grasp my attention.
When I picture how people in the West behave when they finish a book, I see them restore it to their own home library, composed of elegant oak, or perhaps even ebony, bookcases. Some would maybe leave it on their - naturally also ebony - desks to base some of their writing upon it, partially or entirely, composing an essay, a review, or even – I shivered – deciding to translate it.
I shook my arms almost violently. Not – as my hands supposed - to compensate for the lack of movement. It was to shake off the feeling that I was being observed. Then, I directed my hands towards their usual ritual.
As soon as my fingers were filled with circulating blood again, they grasped a freshly trimmed pencil, and this time ungrudgingly followed my dictate. Bulgakov’s Heart of a Dog had been insistently pressing its textured cover onto my hand for hours, but now the roles switched. In no more than five minutes, a sketch of the novella’s slender spine appeared on the wall. I had no colours to distinguish my many books from each other – all drawn on the wall in the darkest corner of my room. So I copied every letter of the title with focused attention.
It was a special kind of avarice. Candles, which had not been available in shops for the past five months, suddenly appeared on the shelves, only to be sold out again before dusk. But this time, sunset seemed to be magically pushed back as all adjacent streets vainly exposed their newly purchased candlelight through shining windows. If you, dear foreign reader, walked down the streets of Prague, you might credit piety, remembrance, or even protest, for which there was certainly not a lack of causes. But it was merely a childish self-indulgence that allowed as many as five wicks to dance in flames at once, all distributed around one tiny room with a turned-on electric lamp.
Not everyone was as avid, of course. Nor in such need of light. If you peeked into a low window on Anenská street, you could distinguish precisely one tired candle feebly shedding light on a piece of paper. And if, being a very curious, indeed almost intrusive, investigator, you dared to venture even closer, you could read the words on it, for a sheet was stuck vertically in a typewriter. And if not then, you certainly would be able to now, for a lady’s hand energetically pulled the document out, held it up against the flame and started to compare its contents with the original Charter.
‘In the Czechoslovak collection…,’ a meek voice began to whisper.
Simultaneously, the flame started licking the edge of the sheet.
‘[…] texts were…’
The blackened part of the page had curled upwards like an accusing lip, still eager to swallow the rest.
‘Szar,’ the writer shouted in a high voice, like her father used to do.
In Hungarian ‘szar’ means ‘shit’.
We often joked about our life goals knowing that the regime would never permit us to realise a true Life Goal. Her goal was to get into the habit of going to bed early. Mine was to own a small shop of books, teas or candles where no vexing customer would ever ring the bell and I could spend days and weeks reading by the window.
‘I do have two true Life Goals that I can never give up on,’ I boasted during our last stroll by the river Vltava.
‘What are you saying – are the ones we have just pronounced not as true? When are you going to take my falling asleep at 10pm seriously?’
‘Listen. These two goals matter more than anything else to me.’
Even though she listened attentively, I almost shouted - from the depths of me that had never before made themselves heard. We had already ascended close to the dark gothic castle of Vyšehrad, and assuring the place was as void of people as it appeared, I let the city know that I really, truly wanted to have a large room full of un-con-fis-ca-ta-ble (not just unconfiscated, I stressed) books of all kinds in my, in our, flat.
‘Come, Martin, it’s starting to rain,’ she announced, even though we both knew it was not true and I was not at all ready to abandon the tree-filled garden with charming views and cascades of stony steps leading down to the river where I had planned to inform her of my second true Life Goal.